In all the time I’ve spent drifting through the veritable sea of jazz vocalists, my ears have always perked up whenever a singer is able to express some sense of truth.
Perhaps it’s my diminishing but acknowledged ignorance of the subject, but I’ve never cared all that much about the technical side. It’s always been about finding someone who connects.
Chris McNulty’s The Song That Sings You Here is an album by a vocalist who connects and sings the truth.
The Australian-born singer uses fluid phrasing and a generous but subtle tone to put the listener in the middle of the song. She eschews the showier aspects in favor of milder runs and a greater sense of patience, allowing her tip-top band as much space as they allow her. This cordial give-and-take opens doors for appreciated moments like Ugonna Okegwo’s bass solo on “How Are Things in Glocca Morra.”
The band also features guitarist Paul Bollenback and drummer Marcus Gilmore. Pianists Graham Wood and Andrei Kondokov, and Igor Butman’s tenor and soprano saxophones make their respective marks as well. Anita Wardell contributes guest vocals to “The Lamp is Low.”
“How Little We Know” is perhaps the most ideal start for The Song That Sings You Here. Featuring a thick, vibrant sound accented by Wood’s piano and Butman’s tenor sax, the piece opens the doors of discovery with McNulty’s energetic and wonderfully spaced singing. She conveys a sense of wonder about the world, about “the chemical forces” that flow “from lover to lover.”
Whether she draws back on “Lonely Woman” or sings creatively about having “nothing to do but waltz” on “Jitterbug Waltz,” McNulty’s sense for the song shines through. Each phrase seems to have personal meaning; her voice exudes not just confidence in technical abilities but honesty and clarity.
The Song That Sings You Here finishes with a pair of songs written by McNulty. The first, “Letter to Marta,” was written when she was 14-years-old. It stands as the first piece she wrote, winding through consciousness with beautifully flowing strands of melody and a haunting quality that is hard to shake.
“Long Road Home – The Song That Sings You Here” concludes the disc with lovely chord progressions and invigorating, propulsive rhythm. McNulty gets out in front of the song, singing of love’s endless and unpredictable course through our lives. The piece ventures and sometimes lingers, just like “an age old friend.”
A beautifully personal record that swings and sways with the best of them, The Song That Sings You Here is a treat for those looking for some kind of truth. McNulty’s vocals are warm and involving, revealing spheres of love, loss and mystery through these 10 special songs.